Analysis: Farming still tinkers with emissions reduction targets as Europe burns

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“Business as usual will not work” is a mantra of scientists and activists when it comes to the climate crisis.

But yesterday in the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, time stood still – and business was normal.

Farmers would be demonized, innocent animals would be killed, and rural Ireland would revolt.

The media were propagandists, the city suits knew nothing and agriculture – the most sustainable and productive in the world – would be destroyed.

Cliche after cliché tumbled out as a string of patient scientists and officials offered their assurances that no one was trying to ruin agriculture, farmers, rural Ireland or reputation.

However, they sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – to which Irish agriculture is making a disproportionate contribution.

He has been the elephant in the cabinet room for decades, even when seven million cows peek in through the windows.

Now, with Agriculture Secretary Charlie McConalogue holding back national emissions cuts by refusing to accept proposed agriculture cuts, the committee made a somewhat desperate attempt to give him some extra leeway.

They brought in two scientists whose views on how agricultural methane emissions should be calculated differed from those in the academic world at large.

Cattle methane shouldn’t be counted, they say, because grass absorbs carbon from the atmosphere — so when cattle eat it and produce methane, they’re only giving off what they take in.

Their reasoning had some merit, agreed three other scientists, but only in the long run, as the methane oxidizes and disappears — a trick much longer-lived carbon hasn’t perfected.

Meanwhile, methane exerts an extraordinary force, warming the atmosphere at 28 times the rate of CO2.

And when it comes to climate protection, there is only an interim period, not a long-term perspective. This week’s events have illustrated that fact in one of the most stark and obvious examples of runaway temperature increases we’ve ever had.

Many parts of Europe had a summer of brutal temperatures and terrible fires, but the leafy London suburbs that burst into flames were surreally shocking.

Today we have the latest greenhouse gas emissions data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing emissions are still rising.

Agriculture isn’t the only culprit, but it is notable for the 11th consecutive year of growth in the number of dairy cows. And that, although the impression is given that the poor beasts are constantly lined up for target practice.

It is also characterized by the increasing use of nitrogen fertilizers, although there is a view that reducing nitrogen would be the low-hanging fruit of reducing emissions.

Agriculture is asked less than other sectors of the economy and society in terms of emissions reductions, but its leaders refuse to think about anything other than minimum cuts.

There is nothing minimal about the proposed cuts. Even at the baseline level of a 22 percent reduction, that would be a major challenge, but unless agriculture agrees to at least try 30 percent, other sectors will face much larger requests.

These are unrealistic numbers for all sectors because, as today’s EPA data shows, everything is moving in the wrong direction and it will take phenomenal efforts to reverse emissions.

First we have to rethink – but as yesterday’s committee meeting showed, we are dealing with numbers while Europe is burning.

As usual. As usual.

https://www.independent.ie/news/environment/analysis-farming-is-still-fiddling-with-emissions-reduction-targets-while-europe-burns-41856529.html Analysis: Farming still tinkers with emissions reduction targets as Europe burns

Fry Electronics Team

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